Art and science collide at the University of Johannesburg 

Africa’s first ever Bio-art exhibition pulls in a large crowd of enthusiasts 

The Creative Microbiology Research Co-Lab (CMRC) has introduced biotechnological art (bior-art)– the use of living and non living matter such as, bacteria, yeast and wet biological practices to create art for South African audiences – at the faculty of Art, Design and Architecture’s gallery at the University of Johannesburg (UJ). 

The exhibition, which is the first of its kind on the continent, aims to establish the practice of bio art in Africa, while interrogating the relationship between humans and the environment. 

The gallery was filled with artworks by nine UJ artists and scientists, physically exhibiting in the space.

Upon entering the gallery, people were met with Dr Nathaniel Stern’s art piece, The wall after us which was littered with electronic waste and botanical installations. 

VIAD team member Sinead Fletcher setting up The wall after us. Photo: Sfundo Parakozov

Professor Leora Farber, co-founders of the CMRC together with Professor Tobias Barnard said: “This [exhibition] has been three years in the making, something that I passionately wanted, I did a five-month residency at a very prestigious bio-art laboratory in Perth at the University of Western Australia. I came back and thought [to myself], we just gotta have this and we’ve got all the facilities- so for me, this is a very special night.”   

The crowd was especially drawn to a work showing hands on which live bacteria were growing by Barnard titled, Come dine with us. This had a rotting stench which he attributed to the acidic contents and the fermentation stage.  

He explained that after Covid-19, people stopped washing their hands, and he wanted to illustrate to them how bacteria can find a home on human skin through touching everyday surfaces. He added that, “People don’t understand microbiology because its abstract, you can’t see it. So, we thought how we could show you what would grow on your hands if you didn’t wash them?”  

A picture of the Come dine with us exhibition showing a hand covered in bacteria at its rotting stage. Photo: Sfundo Parakozov

Another enthralling work on the exhibition was CEION, the growing room, by Nolan Oswald Dennis because of its purplish fluorescent light. This room had a collection of Southern African wildflower seeds which were cultivated between the pages of Sister Outsider a book by feminist, queer black Audrey Lourde, translated into Sesotho.

Art enthusiasts exploring the growing room by Oswald Dennis. Photo: Sfundo Parakozov

The exhibition marked the launch of CMRC bioart laboratory in the FADA building. Barnard, and architectural inventor, Xylan de Jager said that they hope to expand the space if granted funding. 

The UJ Vice Chancellor, Professor Letlhokwa Mpedi told Wits Vuvuzela that he was impressed with the event. “This exhibition emerges as a message of triumph and hope, it spurs us to embrace a journey of exploration and witness how interdisciplinary approaches blur the lines between traditional disciplines and transcend boundaries”, said Mpedi.  

UJ Vice Chancellor Professor, Letlhokwa Mpedi giving an opening speech at FADA Gallery. Photo: Sfundo Parakozov

The exhibition started on July 20, and it will end on August 19, 2023, with special walkabouts with the artists on July 22 and August 5, 2023.  

FEATURED IMAGE: Art enthusiasts walking past a Brenton Maart exhibition. Photo: Sfundo Parakozov


Photography exhibition illuminates the inner city

Earlier this year Gauteng City Region Observatory (GCRO) launched a photography competition, which ended with an exhibition of 62 of the most powerful photo’s received.

Entrants were asked to send through photographs of theirs which depicted their perceptions of the Gauteng City Region, said finalist and Witsie Thato Nkoane. Nkoane came in 4th place for her photo called ‘Johannesburg My City’, which was entered under the politics and governance sub topic.

“There were about 600 entries,” said Nkoane. The ecompetition was made open to students and staff af all university;s in the Gauteng region. The prizes offered were to the value of R15 000. Of wich Nkoane won R1000 and would like to use that money to buy herself a Lomography camera.

The final event came in the form of an exhibition at the FADA Gallery at UJ. There were over 250 people in attandance at the launch of the exhibition last week.

The judges were two photographers, Jodi Bieber and Roger Ballen. The third judge was Khwezi Gule who is the chief curator of the HectorPieterson Museum.

Potsiso Phasha, from GCRO said that “The exhibition, entitled ‘Portraits of a City-Region’, is an illustration of the Gauteng City-Region as a place we interact with with a strong ‘personality’ of its own and one with which we are constantly engaged in building relationships with.

GCRO ran the competition andexhibition in partnership with FADA Gallery at UJ. The GCRO is a partnership between the University of the Witwatersrand, the University of Johannesburg and Gauteng Provincial Government.

The top five winning images where taken by the following people (and appear below):

  1. Blaq Smith
  2. Jenna-Lee Ferrer
  3. Irene Lambrianos
  4. Thato Nkoane
  5. Martin Bolton

Winning photo, 'Sunday Morning' by UJ student Blaq Smith.

Winning photo, ‘Sunday Morning’ by UJ student Blaq Smith.


In second place, 'F-CK' by UJ student Jenna-Lee Ferrer.

In second place, ‘F-CK’ by UJ student Jenna-Lee Ferrer.


Third place went to Irene Lambrianos from the Design School South Africa. Her photography is titled 'City'.

Third place went to Irene Lambrianos from the Design School South Africa. Her photography is titled ‘City’.


in fourth place representing Wits, "My City" by Thato Nkoane.

In fourth place representing Wits, “My City” by Thato Nkoane.


in fifth place 'The Asphalt' by UJ winner, Martin Bolton.

In fifth place ‘The Asphalt’ by UJ winner, Martin Bolton.